For high school juniors and seniors preparing for a globally-competitive workforce, the ability to get individual guidance while learning advanced concepts is a crucial part of seeding career success.
The Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics’ two-year residential school was established through legislative efforts in 1983 to offer secondary students an option of advanced learning before going to college. OSSM graduated its first class of students in 1992.
The public high school was providing the needed push and guidance sought from many students willing to move to the 32-acre Oklahoma City campus, but it was later deemed that students attending schools in rural areas of Oklahoma needed to have the same source of learning.
The OSSM Regional Centers were created through Senate Bill 1 during the 1997 legislative session to meet this need. As a result, OSSM outreach programs are now being offered at CareerTech facilities in Afton, Ardmore, Burns Flat, Chickasha, Drumright, Enid, Muskogee, Poteau, Shawnee, Stilwell, Sallisaw, Wayne and Tahlequah.
Area students attend AP calculus and physic classes on the Indian Capital Technology Center campus here in Tahlequah, as well as in Stilwell, Sallisaw and Muskogee.
“We’ve probably had about at least 30 engineers who have come through this program,” said OSSM AP calculus instructor Gil Brown. “We’ve had five doctors come through this program. There are some veterinarians, and those are just the ones I know of. We’ve had about 240 graduates.”
Amanda Butler, the AP physics teacher, shares the alternating schedule with Brown. Students meet with Brown and Butler on the ICTC campus on a rotating schedule. Students interested in applying for the program need to have a solid background in Algebra 2 and physical science, Butler said.
“If they’ve had physical science, then they’ve had some of the concepts that we’ll cover. The other sciences would help them be able to interpret graphs, read information for a problem and stuff like that,” she said. “More than anything in my class, it’s the ability to do the algebra, do the math and then to be able to decipher what the problem is asking. That’s the thing with physics that makes it so challenging and so fun. You have to be able to decipher what is being asked.”
Brown said students approaching their junior and senior years of high school who may be considering applying, but are hesitant to do so because of preceived weak math skills, need to review their commitment to studying.
“I think there are some people more apt for it than other people. The thing that will level the playing field is the work ethic. If somebody will just work at it, that’s their equalizer,” he said. “All of the schools send us their kids – Tahlequah, Sequoyah, Hulbert and Keys. We get fantastic students from those schools. Their teachers are doing something right. ”
Anne Linebarger, a junior at Tahlequah High School, said the OSSM program offered at ICTC should be viewed as a valued resource.
“It’s a fantastic experience for anyone, even if you’re not going into science or math,” she said. “Just the learning atmosphere and the kind of attention you get here really doesn’t compare to anything you’ll get at a normal high school. It’s really great.”
Fellow THS junior Lacey Kelley said interested students need to keep the benefits of the OSSM program in mind when entering the competitive application process.
“The application isn’t really that bad,” she said. “I love it here. You can’t get all of this at the high school. The class size is so small, and that’s helpful when you’re learning.”
Nina Hatami, a junior attending THS, concurs with her peers about the program’s effectiveness. She noted the extended benefit of establishing friendships with students from other schools and other ICTC campuses.
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